The Best Way To Help Your Child With Their Weight & Body Image + Chaos

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If you have kids in your life, you’re probably already aware that body image challenges start early. Numerous studies have shown that even elementary school children, especially girls, believe they need to change something about their body, whether it’s their weight, their hair, their freckles, or something else. It can be heartbreaking to watch the children we care about struggling with these issues, and so many grown-ups want to know what they can do to help. As it turns out, there IS one thing that we, as adults, can do to create an environment that truly supports our kids’ development of a healthy, positive body image. It’s something we actually have a lot of control over, and best of all, when we start doing this, it will immediately make our own lives better, too.

I would like to share my thoughts on the best way to help children with their weight and their body image. Though I do not have credentials behind my name….yet (another six months and I will!), I have struggled with anorexia nervosa for almost 20 years. I have been in recovery for four years so I give myself a bit of credibility when it comes to this subject. I also do a ton of research!

We live in a time when so many people, young and old, are experiencing an epidemic of body hate and body dissatisfaction. You can read the statistics. Nine out of 10 women polled are hitting on their bodies, and 40% of girls, three to six years old, are already dieting. They’re hating on their body. They’re wanting to change their body parts.

This is crazy! This is the kind of challenge that cuts me to the core….and I hope yours as well.

Hating our body, judging it, and believing that it’s unlovable in some way is the royal road to misery and an unhappy life.

Think about it. When we’re born into this world, watch a baby. They’re not sitting there worried about how they’re looking or running around naked or if they’ve got little bits of body fat here and there. Babies and infants are in love with their physiology. It’s just all one. It’s pleasure. It’s play. However, so many people are struggling in silence with self-defeating thoughts about their own physical form. We’ve got to change that.

An unhappy and unresolved body image keeps us small in our sense of self. It limits our personal growth. It stops our best creativity, and it leaves us far short of the beautiful potential that we are born with. Body hate shuts down the soul. It ruins us. It’s a soul crusher!

If you’re a parent or you have kids in your life and you really want to help the child, especially if you’re a parent, then you want to give them the best chance of a loving relationship with their body….OR at least I hope you do! An unhappy body image these days often starts at a young age. However, there is one strategy that will help you succeed in such a brilliant and beautiful way:

Heal your own relationship with your body!

That’s it. Work on you. Work on your relationship with your body. Get to a place, please, as fast as you can where you forgive your own imperfections and where you let go of your own self-criticism. Stop the fight. Just stop the war because your children, our children pick up on who we are. Children are brilliant observers. They’re not good interpreters, but they’re brilliant observers. They will observe mommy, daddy hating on their own body. They’ll feel it. They’ll absorb it through the airwaves.

In a way, this is the beauty of our young ones. They want to be like us, and they will be like us. Therefore, it is best to look in the mirror and start to work on SELF. It is going to save your kids so much heartache and unnecessary waste of life energy as they get older.

SO AGAIN!!…….the greatest gift you can give your kids is to do your own work and do it now and stop the nonsense in your own head! Here’s how you start: Call a cease-fire on self-attack, and mean it! Just wake up and say cease-fire! Consciously choose to begin to love yourself in small ways. It’s a practice. You’ve got to practice every day.

Every day practice gratitude in some way, shape, or form, for the body that you’ve been given. I know you’ve got complaints about it and this and that and all that. However, balance out all those crazy complaints with some gratitude. Find ways every day to affirm love for your body.

Honestly, it is as simple as that because when you do work on yourself, you save future generations from pain and suffering. However, I know for some…..it isn’t that simple. Your “leading by example” will uplift them in ways that they’ll never know, and when you do that, when you do your work on self so your kids don’t have to finish up that work, we create such a better planet and such a better environment for all of us to thrive in. This is the magic of the world!

 

Chaos: Emily Rosen

 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Enjoy fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and albacore tuna are good choices!

 

Daily Inspiration 

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Our weight tells how we assess food

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A new study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods, such as apples with their sensory characteristics, such as sweetness or softness. On the other hand, processed foods, such as pizzas are generally associated with their function or the context in which they are eaten, such as parties or picnics. “It can be considered an instance of ’embodiment’ in which our brain interacts with our body.” This is the comment made by Raffaella Rumiati, neuroscientist at the International School for Advanced Studies — SISSA in Trieste, on the results of research carried out by her group which reveals that the way we process different foods changes in accordance with our body mass index. The studies included two behavioral and electroencephalographic experiments

“The results are in line with the theory according to which sensory characteristics and the functions of items are processed differently by the brain,” comments Giulio Pergola, the work’s primary author. “They represent an important step forward in our understanding of the mechanisms at the basis of the assessments we make of food.” But that’s not all. Recently published in the Biological Psychology journal, the research also highlighted the ways in which underweight people pay greater attention to natural foods and overweight people to processed foods. Even when subjected to the same stimuli, these two groups show different electroencephalography signals. These results show once again the importance of cognitive neuroscience in the understanding of extremely topical clinical fields, such as dietary disorders.

Adapted from: Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati. (2017, September 22). Our weight tells how we assess food: A new study reveals that our body mass index interacts with our appreciation of food characteristics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 15, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170922111714.htm

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Share a meal! Try ordering your own appetizer but split the main dish with a friend.

Daily Inspiration 

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Why “Only Eat When You’re Hungry” Is Terrible Diet Advice

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Many of us have tried desperately to eat healthier and/or lose weight but willpower or the lack of often keep us from accomplishing our health goals. You may have referred to the quote  “I try to eat only when I’m hungry, but I just can’t seem to keep my hands out of the snack bowl at work…..”or the cracker box before dinner or the peanut butter at night. Afterwards, you are left with a side helping of guilt and self-loathing.

If you only eat when you’re hungry then you should be providing yourself just enough fuel to be healthy without overdoing it on calories, right? Well, unlike a vehicle, fuel is not the only reason we eat and the longer you pretend that’s an achievable goal, the longer you will suffer. Humans eat for many reasons. Hunger is obviously a big one, but there are several others.

Here’s a shortlist:

Pleasure: Food is delicious and can be deeply rewarding on a sensual level. Sometimes we eat because we straight up like a particular food. This is a feature, not a bug.

Emotions: The experience of eating can be both distracting (from painful thoughts or feelings) and comforting. It isn’t uncommon for some people to get strong urges to eat in response to stress, anxiety, shame, and other negative emotions. On the flip side, food can also be part of joy and celebration.

Habit: I’m not always hungry when I first wake up in the morning, but I almost always eat breakfast at home before I leave the house so that I don’t eat something I regret later. One benefit of having strong and consistent healthy eating habits is that your brain learns to moderate your hunger levels according to the rhythms you set. This can also work against you if you develop unhealthy eating habits.

Socializing: Sometimes we eat because we are supposed to. Culture (our collective habits) plays a large role in determining what, when, where and why we eat. For most of history this helped us make healthy food choices, but it has broken down in the era of industrial and convenience foods.

Nutrient deficiency: Your belly may be full, but if you are not getting adequate nutrition from the food you’re eating you may still experience cravings to eat.

Many of these may seem like bad reasons to eat, because they often result in poor food choices and/or overeating. However, the underlying needs behind all these motivations are perfectly valid. It’s okay to eat something because it tastes good or enjoy a meal with your friends. These are a normal and wonderful part of the human experience, no matter your size. It is even okay to comfort yourself from distress with a familiar meal now and then.

More important, even if you put morality aside, you can’t simply will these needs away. Try as you might salty, sugary and fatty foods will probably still taste good, and eating with your friends will still be fun. And you’ve probably noticed that your brain does not allow you to neglect these needs indefinitely.

In fact, repressing or ignoring your urges to eat for any reason is far more likely to result in bingeing than in better food choices long-term. So a strategy that requires you to “only eat when hungry” is innately impractical, as it is at odds with your biology and undermines your ultimate goal of better health. It doesn’t work and nobody actually does it.

It is also distracting you from a strategy that actually helps you make better choices. Imagine trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Even if you believed it were possible, would you have the same motivation on Day 2,347 as you did on Day 1? Or would you start to doubt yourself, feel like a failure, and find it harder and harder to muster the effort to keep trying?

When you try so hard at something and don’t succeed it feels like you are personally failing at the task–that if you weren’t so weak you could triumph. However, if you’ve been trying to do something that’s impossible it isn’t you that’s failing, it’s the strategy. Once you see that the task is futile, you can drop the notion that the problem is you, put down the hammer, and start to look for a real solution.

To come up with a better strategy to reach your health goals you must first accept that there is a valid reason behind all of your urges to eat. That doesn’t mean that following your every impulse is the best course of action, but it does mean that the underlying needs shouldn’t be ignored and must be handled in some way. Wishing for them to just disappear won’t work.

If you can accept that you need a break from work–even if there’s still much work to be done–then you can find an activity that rejuvenates your energy rather than procrastinating on Facebook with a bag of pretzels. If you can accept that your mom’s amazing spaghetti might be the only thing that can lift your spirits after a bad breakup–even if you vowed to avoid pasta until you’ve reached your goal weight–then you might be able to sit and enjoy it mindfully and actually feel better, rather than overeating something less rewarding and feeling even worse afterward. If you can accept that it’s okay to eat something because it tastes good–even if you still have a weight loss goal–it’ll be much easier for you to recognize when your curiosity is satisfied and you’ve had enough. You might even find that whatever it was you wanted to eat isn’t as good as you hoped and walk away after one bite.

That may be hard to believe if you’ve never experienced it, but ask yourself what happens when you deny yourself anything that you consider “unhealthy” or “fattening.” What are the odds that you’ll binge on something you know for certain isn’t worth it when your willpower is weakened? In the first case you may eat a few calories more than you had planned for, but in the second case you’ll eat astronomically more and almost certainly won’t enjoy it as much. If you’d like the first case to be your new normal, it requires accepting that pleasure is a valid reason to eat.

Healthy eating is a fantastic personal value and when life is humming along normally it is wonderful to strive for habits that meet your hunger needs with Real Food and avoid impulsively eating processed foods. However, connecting with loved ones, taking care of your emotional needs, and even enjoying life’s pleasures are also important values. Food is such a significant part of life that it is relevant to all of your values, not just health. Once you accept this, it is much easier to get the balance right. You can do it!!

Adapted from: Darya Rose Summer Tomato Upgrade Your Health Style

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Combine Your Food! Combining foods is so important for increasing your metabolism and controlling hunger better. When you combine foods such as a carbohydrate and protein, you will feel more full and satisfied than if you just ate one of the foods by itself. For example, have you ever eaten a fruit and still felt hungry? Add some peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, cheese, or yogurt to the fruit and you are a happy camper. When it comes to food combinations, an easy rule of thumb is to remember to eat at least 2 food groups for a hearty, satisfying snack. Double the pleasure. Double the benefits.

Daily Inspiration 

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3 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough

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With so much discussion about health problems related to being overweight or obese, the topic of undereating may not appear to a huge concern, but believe me, it is. Often, when individuals are working on weight loss, fitness gain or performance optimization, the issue of undereating comes up just as frequently as overeating does. We all know why it’s so easy to eat too much: portion sizes have expanded dramatically, bulk buying habits encourage us to keep more food around at all times, we’ve been encouraged to snack in between meals with little regard for hunger cues, and so many of our modern foods are less satiating than fresh, wholesome food we ate just a generation or two ago (low in fiber and protein, high in refined carbohydrates).

It’s not so easy to understand why so many people are chronically undereating for their health, but a major contributor is the emphasis on calorie math that leads so many people into risky dieting patterns. Don’t get me wrong, managing calories appropriately is critical for weight loss and body composition management. However, if we’re not careful, a calorie math-focused mindset can be a risk factor for a number of negative adaptations.

Logically, chopping a couple hundred calories out of your daily intake can seem like a no-brainer way to encourage your body to burn extra energy from fat stores. And it will probably work for most people – at least temporarily. As many internet calorie calculators would have you believe, if you want faster results you can choose a larger energy deficit and get a faster linear path to weight loss. So if eliminating 300 Calories from your normal day is good, dropping 500 or 1000 Calories is even better, right?

It’s just not that easy! Our physiology is smart. It likes balance and homeostasis. We’re wired for survival, not for six-pack abs. If you’ve found yourself in a place where you’ve followed “diets” below your true caloric needs for any length of time, you’ve probably begun to experience at least some of the negative consequences of not eating enough.

It takes a trained eye to spot the main indications of not eating enough. But once you learn these main signals, you’ll be more likely to enjoy continued progress towards your goals through more ideal eating patterns. Note: the downfalls of “not eating enough” discussed below are in the context of persistent or prolonged undereating (longer than a few weeks), not necessarily indicative of missing a single meal or eating too little for a couple of days.

Your diet changes who you are.

Irritable, anxious, mentally exhausted, foggy-brained, unable to focus, or mildly obsessed with or fixated on food? Sounds like what happens when you go on a diet, right? Most of us have experienced episodes of “hanger” or mustered through periods of difficult concentration on our mission to lose a few pounds of pudge.

It is not wise to take these mood or cognitive changes lightly though. They are serious signs that your metabolism is beginning to make negative adaptations to the caloric deficit you’re experiencing. Our brains consume about 20% of our total energy expenditure, which is why when you go on a lower-calorie diet by restricting total intake by 20 to 50%, you become a fundamentally different person. Whether it’s the frank energy shortage or insufficient intake of nutrients your brain depends on to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels, undereating leads to significant brain changes.

If your brain is chronically deprived of energy to operate at full capacity, you’re eventually going to experience cognitive deficits including memory changes, impaired alertness, judgement or concentration. If the energy deficit is extreme enough – like the restriction experienced by subjects of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of the 1940’s – the mental and cognitive changes can border on psychosis and perhaps even be permanent. Those subjects were fed an average of 1600 calories per day during the six month “starvation” phase of the experiment.

This was a 50% calorie reduction from their baseline, which sounds extreme, but compared to many persons, this is not an unrealistic difference between “normal” eating and their “dieting” intakes. The effects of “starvation” on these subjects were profound, and included changes in sense of humor, increased self-criticism, and altogether negative changes to social affect. Even without cutting calorie intake in half, conscious calorie monitoring or restriction increases cortisol output and perceived stress. In other words, consciously not eating “enough” automatically makes you less resilient against the stresses of daily life.

This shows us how important it is to complement any “dieting” efforts with a healthy amount of monitoring of our mental and social well-being through strong social support systems and consistent self-reflection or gratitude. Calories are not more important than character. If you sense your mood, cognition or personality changing, it may be one of the first indicators that your “diet” is leading to negative adaptations.

Your physical health suffers.

Often times, we ignore the first negative signs of not eating enough (brain changes) because we’re motivated by aesthetically-focused outcomes. So, we press on and suffer through the next set of negative adaptations that can arise from chronic under-feeding; physical breakdown. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if these changes are completely negative or just part of the process of improving fitness. Because experiencing soreness, lowering resting pulse and blood pressure, and some fatigue are to be expected as we go through a training or weight loss program. However, one must continually evaluate their physical resilience to make sure their calorie intake is sufficient to maintain their health as their physique changes.

To lose weight the right way, you can’t just monitor your scale weight. You must measure other indicators of physical change such as body fat changes, lean mass levels, physical performance and physical health. Are your skin, hair, and nails looking healthier and are you feeling younger as you trim down or are you noticing visual and sensory signs of premature aging?

For example, if you’re losing more muscle than fat, you’re not eating enough. If you’re not gaining or maintaining your physical strength or abilities week to week, you’re probably not eating enough. If you’re noticing extended soreness after workouts, prolonged healing time, or your hair is falling out more easily, you’re definitely not feeding your body enough to positively adapt to your program.

Evidence suggests that eating enough calories to support progressively harder physical training (as opposed to cutting calories to induce weight loss) is the better way to promote physical health and physique changes (loss of body fat and gain of lean tissue). At least one study showed significantly poorer exercise performance capacity when subjects restricted their calories by an average of 12% from their baseline. The subjects experienced dramatic decreases in VO2, muscle size and muscle strength over the course of twelve months.

It’s commonly assumed that maximizing fat loss is often accompanied by performance plateaus and/or mild decreases, but this study suggested energy deficits created through smart training rather than dietary restriction ultimately results in both fat loss and performance improvement. That’s the holy grail of health improvement, and it happens when we’re fed well enough to physically repair from the exercise stress we encounter. Unfortunately, many people try to chronically diet and exercise to double up on the calorie math advantage. What happens after more than a couple weeks of this?

Your hormonal ‘soup’ sours.

The longer your body experiences under-nourishment, the more severely it will adapt. The adaptations are aimed at survival, so any system that’s not absolutely necessary to survival gets down-regulated. As mentioned above, our stress hormones elevate mainly to support the energy needs of our vital organs (at the expense of all other tissues like muscle).

Chronic elevations in cortisol can cause the hormones that control our metabolic rate to decrease significantly, sometimes in as little as a few weeks of being on an energy restricted diet. This decrease results in a decrease in our body temperature, brain activity, heart rate, digestive processes and just about every other system in our body. Reproductive hormones often plummet (mainly testosterone in men and progesterone in women) so much that libido, affect and reproductive cycles become severely or even permanently deranged.

It’s quite unfortunate, but the repeated cycles of dieting and weight re-gain often lead to significant alterations in hormonal balance, which are often combatted by even more extreme dieting patterns. It’s a vicious cycle.

What to do

You may not like this advice, but in order to optimize your fat loss and fitness, you probably need to abandon hopes of quick success and focus on the (slower) road to prolonged health. Ditch the use of internet-based calorie calculators that only account for your age, gender, height and weight. These calculators do not account for your dieting or exercise history, so they can only apply an overly-simplified calorie math equation that cannot predictably help you optimize your physiology. Consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can provide an individual assessment of you metabolism and physiology needs. Happy Healthy!!

Adapted from: Paul Kriegler, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Find Time To Sleep! No amount of multivitamins, super foods or juices can help you if you are neglecting your REM cycle. Sleeping seven plus hours per night is required in order for the body to detoxify, repair and rebuild for the next day. When you are tired you will oftentimes opt for food that is high in sugar and caffeine to give you that temporary energy boost. Failing to ignore your body’s silent cries for sleep can result in potential health issues, as well as weight gain.

Daily Inspiration 

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Parent and Teen Weight Relate to Feeding Practices

A new study helps identify which parents of teens are most likely to use feeding practices that have been linked with unhealthy outcomes, researchers say. Parents most often pressure their teen to eat when neither they nor the teen are overweight, while when parents and teens are both overweight, parents most often use food restriction, the researchers found. Previous research has shown that when parents use restriction and pressure-to-eat feeding practices, children and adolescents are at higher risk for being overweight and having eating disorders, said lead author Jerica M. Berge of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, in email to Reuters Health. She and her colleagues analyzed data from two studies involving more than 3,000 parents and more than 2,000 teens. Teens had their height and weight measured by trained professionals at school, and parents filled out a questionnaire at home, self reporting their own heights and weights.

Parents also reported how often they encouraged their child to eat more at mealtimes and how often they restricted sweets, high-fat foods or their teen’s favorite foods. In about 1,200 cases, parents were overweight or obese but their teen was not. In almost 900 cases, both parent and child were overweight. In almost 700 cases, the parent and child were both not overweight, and in only about 300 cases the parent was not overweight but the teen was. Pressuring kids to eat was more common when both parties were not overweight, compared to pairs who were overweight or had differing statuses. Similarly, food restriction was most common for pairs that were both overweight or obese, compared to those who were both not overweight or who differed between parent and child, the authors reported in Pediatrics.

Clare Collins, professor in nutrition and dietetics at The University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia who wasn’t involved in the new study, noted in email to Reuters Health that the surveys were taken only at one time point so it is unclear from the results if parent feeding practices go on to influence future eating and weight status in the adolescents. “The problem with restricting food from a child or pressuring a child to eat more is that prior research has shown that it may have unintended consequences such as, a child becoming overweight or obese, or engaging in disordered eating behaviors such as, binging or purging,” Berge said. “Rather than restricting or pressuring your child to eat, it is more helpful for parents to make sure that there are a variety of healthy food options in the home, or on the table, for children to eat and then allow the child to decide how much they eat,” she said. Having unhealthy food in the fridge and on the table and telling a teen they cannot eat it is not helpful and sets up food fights, Collins said. But keeping unhealthy food out of the house in the first place does work and helps keep harmony in your house, she said.

Reprinted from Reuters (Kathryn Dole)

Tip of the Day

Can’t find something in your kitchen? Add it to the list! Keeping a running list of items you need and bringing it to the store will minimize the number of products you buy and the size of your bill.

Daily Inspiration 

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Eating Disorders-How to Avoid Triggers on the Internet

These warnings help keep the environment positive rather than harmful, and it’s important that those navigating the Internet are prepared for what they might encounter as well as the potential consequences of what they might post. Below are tips and reminders to help keep triggers to a minimum both in posting and reading content.

1) Avoid numbers

All of them. Do not post about your lowest weight, goal weight or the number of calories you have eaten. These are the ultimate invitations to compare oneself to another, and are unnecessary to discuss.

2) You don’t have to only highlight the positives

While sharing recovery victories and good days is an excellent thing and should definitely be done more on social media, it doesn’t mean you can’t admit to struggle. Recovery is bound to have difficult obstacles, and painting the image that it is a constant breeze forward can just create a false perception for others that they shouldn’t anticipate struggles. Some of the greatest inspirations found on social media has been from individuals who admit to a difficult experience but announce that they will not let it stop them from getting back on their feet and continuing the fight!

3) Remember that everyone is different and in different places

With photos on Instagram and Tumblr, excited tweets on Twitter and constant life updates, it can become very easy to compare yourself to others on social media. Always keep in mind that everyone is at a different point in their recovery. What worked for one person might not work for another, or might have taken weeks to accomplish while you are only seeing the end result. Avoid taking or giving advice with the assumption that it will work or not work for you in exactly the same way. The online recovery community is meant to be a supportive environment, not a place for professional therapy, so remember to take suggestions with some caution.

4) Stop criticizing your body

Often, women see selfie posts on Instagram and think “wow, they look beautiful!” only to scroll down and find a long, ranting caption pointing out their flaws or calling themselves names. Such hatred is not only difficult to read, but it can discourage others from admiring their bodies rather than trashing them. Self-love is a practice that takes time during recovery, but it can be contagious on social media platforms when you are in a supportive, pro-recovery community. Seriously, try it! You have the ability to inspire others to love themselves and you may begin to see just how wonderful it can feel to let go of negativity.

5) Be honest with yourself

When it comes to posting content on social media, try putting yourself in your followers’ shoes and consider if the content would be triggering to you if posted by an individual you didn’t know personally. If so, see if you can reword the content so that it won’t require a warning and can keep your blog being a safe, encouraging environment.

Let’s try to overshadow all the harmful “thinspiration” and pro-anorexia websites out there and keep changing the Internet for the better! Together, we can help each other maintain a loving community and spread the inspiration through all social media platforms.

Proud2Bme

Tip of the Day

Shellfish counts too! Oysters, mussels, clams, and calamari (squid) all supply healthy omega-3s. Try mussels marinara, oyster stew, steamed clams, or pasta with calamari.

Daily Inspiration

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Getting Serious About Mental Illnesses

For the past few years, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has been increasingly focusing their research on serious mental illness (SMI). What does “SMI” mean? If some illnesses are considered “serious,” does that mean that others are not? If some mental illnesses are not classified as serious, does that mean they aren’t significant? Does everyone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have SMI? What about anorexia nervosa or borderline personality or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Do these qualify as SMI? Should NIMH focus their efforts on the best science that will reduce the tremendous morbidity and mortality associated with all mental illnesses or should they limit themselves to those causing the most disability? To answer these questions, a little history might help.

Where did the term “SMI” come from? In the 1992 ADAMHA Reorganization Act (P.L. 102-321), Congress directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a federal definition of SMI to aid in the estimation of SMI incidence and prevalence rates in states that were applying for grant funds to support mental health services. “Adults with a serious mental illness are persons: age 18 and over, who currently or at any time during the past year, have a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-III-R, that has resulted in functional impairment which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. All of these disorders have episodic, recurrent, or persistent features; however, they vary in terms of severity and disabling effects.” While the federal definition of SMI is specific to adults, there is an analogous definition of “serious emotional disturbance” (SED) for children. Both SMI and SED definitions focus on the DSM diagnosis, plus degree of impairment.

As one can see, the “official” definition of SMI is very inclusive. Recently, SMI has been a subject of conversation in the wake of recent shooting tragedies. Discussions about SMI and violence, directed towards self or others, are usually focused on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and sometimes major depressive disorder. Violence is an extreme (and rare) negative outcome of disorders like these, warranting particular emphasis, but it is not the only negative outcome to consider. For example, anorexia nervosa can be fatal, yet eating disorders have understandably been excluded from discussions about SMI.

In fact, all mental illnesses have the potential to be impairing and meet the meaning of “serious” in the sense of the federal definition. NIMH supports an extensive portfolio on all aspects of mental illness, from basic research to clinical investigations,  to common disorders in men and women affecting adults and children in a diversity of populations. To better understand how NIMH research addresses SMI, the next few sentences provide a quick break-down of their overall portfolio. In 2012, nearly 13% of their total budget was mandated for research on HIV/AIDS, and about 5% went to administrative costs: Support for the Institute, funding hospitals and clinics, and general overhead. Research on disorders that can be disabling (including autism) covered 51% of non-AIDS portfolio but if one looks at the broad range of research that could shed light on new diagnostics or new treatments, then one could consider that 81.3% of NIMH non-AIDS portfolio was dedicated to SMI research.

NIMH investment in basic science, usually unrelated to a specific diagnostic category, accounts for the 30% interval between their SMI portfolio defined narrowly (51%) vs. broadly (81.3%). They continually talk about serious mental disorders as brain disorders. What NIMH doesn’t say is that their knowledge of how the brain works remains far behind their understanding of other organ systems. Developing tools for understanding the brain, identifying the major circuits important for behavior, and deciphering the language of the brain are critical investments for NIMH in order to make progress on diagnostics and therapeutics for SMI. Similarly, basic behavioral science can give NIMH the tools to detect the earliest signs of schizophrenia or autism. They do not count these among their SMI portfolio, yet investing in basic science may be NIMH most important investments for people with serious mental illness.

So when NIMH states its increasing their focus on SMI, what they really mean is that they are investing in the best science that can reduce the most disability and mortality. Some of these investments are focused on biomarkers or new treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder but they also are committed to supporting science that will give a much deeper understanding of brain and behavior. That, in the long run, is the most direct path to “paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.”